In conjunction with each issue of Frame, we challenge emerging designers to answer a topical question with a future-forward concept. For Frame 118, Vera de Pont analyses the body as a mode of transport and creates multi-material smart shoes for the pedestrians of tomorrow.

Vera de Pont’s disruptive, tech-centric approach to the fashion industry sparked our curiosity about her take on the world of transport in the Future Mobility Challenge.

You’ve designed a shoe, not a vehicle? 
VERA DE PONT: Yes. I want to propose a vision of cities that are created for people, where residents no longer rely on cars but on individualized public transport in a world full of green. In this vision, the human body plays a central role in transport and in the generation of energy.

Sounds exciting . . .
Walkers will be kings of the road and have their own lanes. The focus is very much on the quality of shoes, which are the most important aspect of pedestrian transport.

How will conventional shoes change?
The shoe will become a smart entity, printed on demand using a mix of materials. Its form will be based entirely on the wearer’s personal body data.

Why is it important for the shoe to be printed on demand?
The idea is to reduce waste as much as possible. I believe that all fashion items should be on demand and make use of additive manufacturing. A high level of personalization also represents immense value for the user. 

How does data ‘form’ the shoe?
The form is based on pressure points that affect the feet while running or walking, and on an analysis of 4D body movement. This data is translated into a high-definition multi-material shoe. Multi-material printing is functional, but that doesn't mean that it can't look really cool.

What makes the shoe special?
High-resolution microstructures provide extra support and create highly defined shock absorbers while remaining lightweight thanks to the efficient use of material. Even more important is the magnetized coating that enables the walker to float around the city on magnetic super highways.

A special coating on Vera de Pont’s multi-material shoes will allow wearers to hover over a magnetic super highway that collects energy from pedestrian movement to power the city.

How does it work?
The opposite magnetic poles of the shoe and the roadway create a magnetized cushion that allows the walker to hover above the surface. It will look as if you are on an invisible skateboard. Because no friction is involved, the speed is the same as you traverse the entire super highway.

What will the highways look like?

They won’t be as big as our current motorways. I’m thinking smaller sections, like the moving walkways at Schiphol Airport. Body movement on these lanes will be uploaded into an energy network that could be used to power our cities

What material would make these shoes possible?
It would need to be something suitable for printing complex structures, both hard and soft. In the future I’d like to use bioplastics, but what I have in mind isn’t available yet, so I used plastics for all the tests I’ve done.